Department of Health swine flu expert Ian Dalton on the importance of vaccination for pregnant women, plus a round-up of the latest developments
What should NHS Staff be focusing their efforts on?
The numbers of new cases of swine flu have dropped slightly over the last week, with 64,000 cases being reported from the previous weeks 84,000, but with the potential “half term effect” we are not in a position to say whether this second wave of swine flu has peaked. Also slightly reducing are the numbers of people being admitted to hospital, however the number of patients in critical care is still relatively high, as are the number of deaths related to swine flu which still continues to be of concern.
The vaccination programme continues to deliver protection to those people in the clinical priority groups as well as frontline health and social care staff. At the end of last week (13th November) virtually all GPs will have received their first delivery of swine flu, and from this week PCTs will be able to start to re-order stocks of the vaccine for themselves and GPs.
The next steps
Pregnant women are at a significantly increased risk of complications from swine flu, to both themselves and their babies, if they contract virus. Getting the vaccine is a way of considerably reducing that risk and at the Department of Health we are strongly recommending that women take up the offer of the vaccination. A new leaflet, called Swine flu and pregnancy: How to protect yourself and your baby, has been produced to help mothers-to-be make an informed choice abut the vaccination offer. It includes information not just about the vaccination, but about precautions to take to reduce their risk of infection and available treatments if they do become ill. It will be available on the DH website, on NHS Choices and hard copies will also be sent out to GP surgeries.
Progress to date
All the latest information on the current increase in numbers of flu like illnesses, GP consultation rates, hospitalisations and deaths can be found on the HPA website.
The most up-to-date clinical information and guidance can be found on the Department of Health website at dh.gov.uk/swineflu.